Some people apparently missed it

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

One of the recurring themes of the Bible is opulence – and not just as a warning against vanity, either; as a picture of the blessings of God. The raiment of the righteous is often described in terms of amazing beauty – white robes, golden crowns, splendor and majesty – reflecting the glory of God Himself. Will the Author of beauty surround Himself with ugliness?

I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck,  and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was honey, olive oil and the finest flour. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord.

Cue screaming from people who think body piercings are the work of the Devil, eh? And what was the charge which the Lord then brought against Israel? That she was dressed immodestly? Nope. Pride. Idolatry. If all these things – fancy jewelry and beautiful clothes – are inherently bad, then why on Earth and in Heaven would God use that imagery to express how GOOD He is to His people?

So yes, actually… it does look like the model of womanhood in the Bible wears nice stylish clothing. Unless you’re going to argue that crimson, fine linen, and purple are really just flavors of sackcloth-and-ashes. But like all good things, if you make an idol out of it, it will lead to your downfall, so God’s shepherds are right to warn against getting caught up in the keeping-up-with-Miss-Jones competition that runs rampant through women’s social groups; the particular temptation of women to indulge in vanity through clothing. Any kind of clothing can be the vessel for that kind of pride, though – a point which the Modesty Squad has assiduously avoided addressing. What you put in your body is less important to God than what’s in your heart; why would what you put on your body be any different?

The verse usually trotted out is 1 Timothy 2:9, in which modesty, decency, and propriety are set against gold, pearls, expensive clothes, and elaborate hairstyles. And in context? Paul is particularly addressing public worship. 

Ooops. My wedding band is made of gold. Is every woman wearing a gold wedding ring to church immodest? I own my mother’s strands of pearls. Is every woman who wears even so much as a little $20 pair of farmed button pearl earrings in sin? The expensive clothes? What would that have meant to Timothy in that time and place? I betcha that scarlet and fine linen and purple the Woman of Proverbs wears ain’t bargain-bin stuff. Elaborate hairstyles, likewise – some historical cultural knowledge is necessary to figure out what Paul is talking about here, since he certainly doesn’t give any specific instruction like “hair always loose” or “only ponytail buns allowed.” (The modern equivalent, if BibleHub’s parallel commentaries are to be trusted, would be to go and get a fancy updo at a salon before worship.)

I see a remarkable lack of concern on the Modesty Squad’s part for the actual Biblical details, nor any argument even referring obliquely to the cultural mores of 1st Century Mediterranean communities. Somehow it ends up with stopping the clock somewhere around what was in fashion for the Modesty Squad’s grandmothers (an ideal grandmother, in the cases where dear old actual Grandmama was a little too worldly for the Modesty Squad to qualify as a Saint Yiayia) – a point that does not originate with me, by the way. That’s what my husband pointed out as happening in this kind of discussion, in his experience.

I’m afraid that due to my own nature, I’m not terribly tempted by the fads of the fashion industry – it’s hard to be when you’re essentially blind to basically all the relevant details. I suspect that my failing is a more masculine one, referred to in 1 Timothy 2:8 – anger and disputing. I’m still a little bemused by the repeated accusation from Cane that I’m guilty of sneering at a group of people I actually hold in high esteem for their faithfulness… because I don’t like their cultural sense of fashion, and dared to say so publicly. Even though I made sure to say that they had every right to it – of course, that part got ignored. Why engage in reason when you can go straight to How Dare You Judge? Only Am Allowed To Judge!

Yup. Done with tolerating attempted browbeating from the Modesty Squad. But since the question of fashionable attire in the Bible was raised, I thought I’d provide some examples for the audience. But remember, random people on the internet are NOT an authority. Please refer all technical questions to your own church’s pastors and elders; wives and children, do as your head of household instructs whether or not you think he’s correct.

After all, since husbands don’t all agree with each other, some of them are inevitably going to be wrong. Especially on a matter like this one, where there is no detailed list of instructions and a lot of people are instituting rules to suit their own particular circumstances. Heck, we could ALL be wrong and nobody’s actually going to know ’til Heaven. (I think they have a uniform or something up there anyway. Joke’s gonna be on us if it’s a burqa.)

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About pancakeloach

pancakeloach.wordpress.com :)
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